Letters and Editorials 1041 Views Peggy Chan

Meet the New Kind Of Homeless People in Town

Most parents love to teach their kids how to share. Guess those parents would be extremely proud today to see that young people are beginning to prefer to own fewer properties, choosing instead to share everything. These youngsters are sharing houses, cars, furniture, workstations, even music claiming it makes their lives a little easier. They are part of a new group of youth who are often educated, self-employed, well-to-do but homeless by choice.

According to an article on npr.org, in some places, such as Los Angeles, this rental life has gone to an extreme. Steven T. Johnson, 27, one of the young people featured in the report says he works in social media advertising and lives in Hollywood. According to Johnson, he does not own an apartment but shares a large bedroom with a couple of other people, through a service called PodShare.  There he shares a kitchen and bathroom with other roommates. He also does not own a car because he takes a ride-share service to the gym. He does his laundry using the gym’s laundry service and also rents a locker at the gym.

Even more surprising, is the fact thatJohnson also does not go to work in a typical office; rather he rents a desk at WeWork, a coworking space. Even though he buys his own clothes, he admits they are always just two versions of the same outfit. And asked about whether he at least owned a backpack, Johnson says, "I gave that up two months ago."

He says that, taking the decision not to own anything, has made his life a lot less complicated. "That's what's great," he says. "When you don't own things, you don't have to keep track of them. You just show up."

This new trend has been blamed on three things: the rising price of housing, student loan debts and a likely fundamental shift in American capitalism.

Skyler Wang, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley who studies the sharing economy, quoted on npr.org says that the young people inquestion may not be as property-free as they claim to be. They just love owning different belongings from what their parents’ generation loved to own.

"I talked to a lot of minimalists," she says. "They're the type of people who love to couch-surf. They own like 30 things, but ... they hoard digitally. They have tons of photographs. They have thousands and thousands of Instagram posts."

Businesses are beginning to adjust to this renting trend, by diversifying into rentals.Ikea, for instance, is finally starting to lease its furniture.

REI also,has started to expand its rental program for things like camping gear. Eric Artz, the acting CEO of the company, says "We're selling joy,"  "We're selling inspiration when you get out on a trail or go for a bike ride. We're selling the adrenaline buzz at the end of a run, and we're just trying to enable that in any way we possibly can."


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